To evaluate the role of delayed gastric emptying in the decreased nutritional intake and growth retardation of some patients with Crohn's disease, we looked at four groups: 1) Crohn's disease with growth retardation; 2) Crohn's disease with malnutrition or acute weight loss; 3) Crohn's disease without growth retardation or malnutrition; and 4) normal controls. Gastric emptying was measured by a test meal incorporating 99mTc sulfur colloid-labeled chicken liver as the solid phase marker and 111 In-labeled water as the liquid phase marker. The percent of each isotope retained in the stomach over 120 minutes was compared among the groups and correlated with established nutritional parameters, caloric intake, and disease activity. Gastric emptying of the liquid component was the same in all groups, and emptying of solids in patients with Crohn's disease and growth retardation was not significantly different from controls. However, gastric empyting of solids was delayed in five of seven patients in the malnourished group; the mean emptying rate of all seven patients was significantly slower compared both to the normals (p < 0.01) and the Crohn's patients without growth disturbances (p <0.05). This delay was correlated with caloric intake, but not with disease activity or any individual nutritional parameter except arm muscle area (p <0.01). Multiple regression analysis revealed that 54% of the variation in the emptying of solids could be accounted for by nutritional factors. Fifty-seven percent of patients with delayed gastric emptying had radiologic and/or endoscopic evidence of nonconstrictive involvement of the duodenum with Crohn's disease, while 80% of patients with such involvement had delayed gastric emptying. These results help explain the decreased caloric intake observed in Crohn's disease patients and support the role of liquid caloric supplements.
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